This is especially true for MOONCHILD, the memoir manuscript I’m revising (as in completely re-envisioning, you can read about this writerly overhaul and the revision process here and here). There is so much music in the text of the book. Always music. And discussions about the meanings of the songs that are incorporated into the story, an exploration of where music and life and self intersect.
Pretty early on, I knew I wanted to start each chapter out with a lyric. In fact, I wrote the first words (longhand, in a notebook) of this manuscript in 2003, and I think even then, I knew each chapter would somehow feature a lyric, a song. It’s not the first time I thought that way about a long-form piece of writing.
So, yes, each chapter starts off with a lyric from a song. I did up a little CD label thing (which proves why I’m a writer and NOT a graphic designer) that lists the songs that are quoted at the beginning of each chapter. Here it is:
And you can actually LISTEN to the soundtrack for my manuscript at the bottom of this post! It takes a little longer to load but this way, you get a real feel of this as soundtrack. And I think having it here, in a public space, may also help me edit and revise with a musical ear.
This list will be in flux as I revise. Some chapters may get merged together. Others may not make it into the final manuscript (B-sides). I may play with re-ordering the chapters. And I might just change the lyrics and songs associated with some of them.
In fact, in a way, I’m re-posting an old post, but the Soundtrack was a little different way back then. I’ll make changes to it as the changes arise in the rewriting process.
And here’s an excerpt, from that old post, that explains some of the thinking. One of the reasons I brought this up again is that I want to bring back an old idea, discussing each chapter lyric, why it’s there, what it means (many of them have multiple meanings, and in several cases it’s not just the lyric but the song, and sometimes the album title also has a meaning), and how it’s part of the story. I’m going to start posting those as I go through the manuscript. So, be on the lookout for some songs as chapters discussions!
From an old post about this same topic:
“Some of them, I’m not crazy about. The one I’m least crazy about is “Hallelujah.” I mean, I LOVE the song, it’s just the one that I feel least sure that it fits right.
I had a strong urge to go with songs that really, to me, symbolized that time, like songs I listened to a lot at the time, or the song from a particular artist that I like best, or feel most deeply about, and sometimes that just didn’t work out.
For example, to go back to Mr. Jeff Buckley, I would have LOVED to use “Lover, You Should’ve Comoe Over” or “Mojo Pin,” because those are the songs of his that get me on the deepest level. “Mojo Pin” especially reminds me of that time in my life. The way Jeff sings the “ooohs” at the beginning and the opening notes, it just does something to me, and that part in particular really seems to symbolize a sort of pulling out of myself that happened during the spring of that year, but I’m just not sure there’s any line in that song that fits with any particular chapter I have.
I also wanted to use the song “Breakable” by Fisher, from the Great Expectations Soundtrack, because that too was a song I listened to a lot back then, and it reminds me of that time, but again it didn’t quite fit, I don’t think.
Likewise, I might’ve preferred a different K’s Choice song, and at a different place (chronologically). And as for Temple of the Dog, I’d prefer to use the song “All Night Thing,” because that’s a song I write about in the text of the chapter, and one that I just love. Since it comes up in the text, I’d love to use it as the chapter heading, but there’s just no lines in it that fit, at all.
And I actually split what was once one chapter to make room for the Joan Osborn song, because that song was so symbolic at the time, and the lyrics SO fit my life and what I wrote about.”
This next section refers to a chapter that I actually decided to pull back into the manuscript. For now anyway. We’ll see if the chapter stays in as I continue revising, or goes back to being a B-side.
“On the other hand, there was one chapter that I completely discarded that I thought had a freakin’ perfect lyrical title. It was a chapter about in which I talked with some friends during that first year of college about a breakup the year before, and was really searching for the reason WHY the relationship ended, since I really had no idea, and looking back now, I kind of think that at that time, as a freshman in college, I perhaps drew some wrong conclusions, or at least, conclusions that I carried with me for years afterwards, whether they were accurate or not, that really affected the way I saw myself. I eventually decided the chapter itself wasn’t really necessary to the story, but I loved the title. It was a Soundgarden lyric – “Looking for a paradigm so I can pass it on,” because in a way, that’s exactly what I was doing, and the other reason I loved it was that the name of the song that line is from is called “Searching With My Good Eye Closed,” which I thought was just soooo appropriate. Plus it could sort of relate to the whole legal blindness thing. So, I was sorry to let that chapter go.”
So, what I’m thinking now is that I really want to write more about how I arrived at lyrics as chapter titles, because they’re all so different. Some I picked for the meaning of the whole song, some for a snippet, some because the song and album names also enhance the meanings. Some have layers of meaning, and others are simpler. Some have things no one else would probably ever pick up on without listening to the whole song, (which you can now do above) and in other cases, the rest of the song aside from chosen lyric is totally irrelevant and even inappropriate to the chapter. So I’m bringing back the idea of writing a post about each one, because the process is so different for each song and each chapter.